2017 Volunteered at LIVESTRONG Challenge
The LIVESTRONG Challenge ride celebrated its 20th ride year in Austin this year. The event starts in downtown Austin and winds its way through the streets and back roads all the way down in San Marcos. My teammates and I had the incredible opportunity to volunteer at this great event and talk with the riders at our rest stop. Helping another dedicated community in the fight against cancer provided a special way to spend the morning in some of the most beautiful country Texas has to offer.
Below me is one of the most brutal hill climbs I have ever seen on the road. It’s about a 16% grade, and comes out of nowhere in the San Marcos countryside. There is no downhill preceding it to get any momentum as you prepare to climb. It is straight up for about 1000 yards, and it strains your legs even to walk up it. It is brutal. This past Saturday, my Texas 4000 teammates and I witnessed resiliency, grit, and strength from hundreds of riders as they climbed that hill one by one. Each rider we saw that day conquered their own physical and mental challenges to get up the hill, conveniently placed right at the half-way mark of their 100 mile ride.
I saw riders with sweat pouring down their arms, breathing heavy, and huge smiles on their faces as they saw friends waiting for them at the rest stop. A few looked back down at the hill they just conquered. Others shook their heads and said “Wow, I’m glad that is over!” The strength and determination that those riders exhibited was inspirational, and only the start of wonderful interactions.
One of my teammates, Heidi, spoke with two riders that had attached little green Kermit the Frogs to their helmets, in memory of one man’s son that died of pediatric cancer. Another rider I spoke to told me of his friend, Julie, that died on her own ride fighting cancer two years ago. Other riders had names written on their jerseys, all symbolizing someone they loved who had fought cancer or still is today. Seeing these riders, all riding for a different purpose, reminded me why I joined Texas 4000 a year ago. These riders, who just summited a huge hill on their bikes, all signed up to ride 100-miles on a beautiful Sunday for a reason.
Our interactions with the riders were varied, but I noticed that in our own ways, each Texas 4000 rider exhibited at least one component of our core values: hope, knowledge, and charity. Always enthusiastic and full of energy, our Texas 4000 rider Marc played music and danced behind the tables, putting smiles on countless peoples’ faces. I know that his enthusiasm and belief in the riders inspired hope along the rest of their 100 mile journey. Other riders thanked us for volunteering, and even more asked us why we we were out there. These interactions gave us the opportunity to talk to riders already a part of the cycling community, and the cancer fighting community, to talk about Texas 4000 and spread its mission. In exchange, we learned peoples’ stories. One man promised to donate to our team as soon as he could feel his legs again after his ride.
Sometimes it feels easy to lose perspective on what we are trying to accomplish here at Texas 4000 when deadlines, midterms, exams, and personal lives fall in front of us. But witnessing these riders, from all walks of life and riding for their own reasons, reminded me that cancer forces itself into almost everyone’s life. The fight against cancer isn’t over, and Texas 4000 is one component in that bigger mission: eradicating cancer.
To learn more about the LIVESTRONG Challenge: https://www.livestrongchallenge.org/
Written by: Sarah Gutberlet